Northern Ireland news

How to avoid poisoning your pet at Christmas


Pet owners are being encouraged to help their animals safe from poisoning this Christmas.

A British Veterinary Association (BVA) survey has revealed that 70% of vets in Northern Ireland saw at least one case of pet poisoning last Christmas.

BVA says chocolate poisoning is the most common cause of toxic ingestion at Christmas for dogs while for cats it's antifreeze poisoning.

Decorations, gift wrapping and seasonal plants such as lilies, holly and poinsettias can also cause problems for pets.

British Veterinary Association Northern Ireland Senior Vice President Seamus O’Kane said Christmas can be fun and chaotic in homes so it's important to keep an eye on your pet.

"Many pet owners are aware of the risks of chocolate or other festive foods being toxic for their pets but, as our survey shows, it’s easy to be caught out by a kind gift left under the tree which curious animals can find hard to resist.

“Our advice is for present-givers to tell owners if there is anything edible in gifts and to keep such presents safely out of reach of your pet. If you suspect your pet may have eaten something it shouldn’t, please contact your local vet immediately.”

Tips for keeping your home safe for pets:

  • Protect your pet from poisons – a number of festive treats and traditions, such as chocolate, raisins, xylitol (found in sugar-free treats), nuts, grapes, liquorice, poinsettia, holly and mistletoe are toxic to cats and dogs
  • Keep decorations out of reach – ribbons, wrapping paper, baubles, tinsel and tree lights can be irresistible to cats and dogs but dangerous if broken, chewed or swallowed. Batteries for Christmas gifts also need to be kept safe as they may cause severe chemical burns to the mouth, throat and stomach
  • Forget festive food for pets – fatty foods and Christmas dinners shouldn’t be shared. They can trigger, sickness and diarrhoea or other conditions from gastroenteritis to pancreatitis, so try to stick to your pet’s regular diet and routine. Bones including turkey bones should not be given to pets as they can splinter and puncture the digestive tract
  • Give toys not treats – opt for a new toy or a long walk if you want to indulge your pet 
  • Know where to go – even with all the care in the world, animal accidents and emergencies can still happen. Check your vet’s emergency cover provision and holiday opening hours or, if you are away from home, use the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Find a Vet facility at


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